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Unit4 Business Maturity Index Reveals Urgent Need for Organizations to Take a Balanced Approach Across Profit, Productivity and People


November 16, 2021

As companies see their valuable talent looking for new opportunities, organizations with mature business, people and technology strategies will outperform competitors

 Unit4, a leader in enterprise cloud applications for people-centric organizations, today released findings from a new global study, the Business Future Index. Conducted by Vanson Bourne, 3,350 decision makers and employees within mid-sized enterprises were surveyed to understand how businesses around the world approach profit and productivity to sustain their businesses during this economically volatile period.

Included within the study is the Business Maturity Model, which assesses the maturity of respondent organizations against their overall business state, their ability to manage financial processes and their people and talent strategies.


Maturity Model

The report and Maturity Model offer a stark warning for businesses that are not getting the balance of priorities right between people, productivity and profit. Analyzing performance over the last few years, the Maturity Model identifies organizations as either Optimizers, Embracers, Evaluators, or Hesitators. Hesitators are the least mature in terms of performance and strategy and show the least business success, while optimizers are the most mature. Some of the major concerns across the groups focused around:

  • The great resignation: In the last year, 71% of Hesitators say they have lost staff to competitors compared to only 30% of Optimizers
  • Workplace culture: Only 4% of Hesitators say workplace culture is a top priority for their leadership teams in contrast to 87% of Optimizers
  • Digital transformation: 45% of Optimizers are extremely confident in the robustness and comprehensiveness of their digital transformation strategies compared to only 1% of Hesitators
  • Technological innovation: 51% of Optimizers have adopted AI and machine learning, compared to only 1% of Hesitators; 56% of Optimizers have adopted real-time reporting tools compared to only 5% of Hesitators.


The Decision-Maker’s Delusion

The research reveals a significant disconnect between decision makers and employees around their response to key issues. The perception among respondents that their organization is doing so well that there is no room for improvement is driven largely by decision makers. Numbers are almost cut in half across the board when looking at employees who feel their organization is performing very well:

  • 25% of decision makers believe their performance in recruiting and retaining talent has been so good there is no room for improvement which contrasts with only 12% of non-decision makers
  • 89% of decision makers also believe they have at least met if not exceeded expectations around profitability over the last three years compared to 70% of employees.


Financial Management in the Digital Age

Findings from the global study show there are significant concerns about the effectiveness of financial management processes to support organizations, which underlines the importance of using technology to modernize and make businesses more competitive. This area showed major gaps in a business’s ability to be agile, efficient, and accurate in their decision making:

  • Over half (56%) find their organization’s finance processes too slow and cumbersome making everyday tasks like paying suppliers, managing budgets and raising Purchase Order numbers and invoices difficult
  • For ‘Hesitating’ businesses in particular, outdated processes and systems (49%) and human error (43%) are significant issues
  • 62% agree that a lack of access to the right information hampers their organization’s ability to plan, manage risk and make decision effectively
  • 55% agree that they are unable to adjust quickly when external factors impact their business.


 The Time to Act Is Now: The Global Talent Crisis

The research shows that over the last few years, business priorities have focused on survival, namely concentrating on profit and productivity. However, looking ahead, it is clear the biggest concern is attracting and retaining talent. But while people are a business’s most valuable asset, they are often not the biggest focus:

  • 90% of organizations admit they face challenges in retaining talent, recruitment and the market fallout resulting from COVID-19 - but the study shows the top three areas of focus for the next 12 months are improving operational efficiency, increasing productivity and attracting new customers
  • Talent-related priorities are much lower in the rankings with only 17% saying a successful remote or hybrid office environment is important
  • Almost seven in ten (69%) of organizations in the “Hesitating” group say that they don’t do anything to influence workplace culture, whereas the leadership team intentionally focuses on workplace culture in 95% of “Optimizing” businesses.

The Business Maturity Model clearly shows that if organizations are to thrive in the face of talent shortages, they have to set themselves up to be more agile and adaptable, and that means being prepared to take risks and embrace innovation.

Mike Ettling

CEO, Unit4

“The Business Maturity Model clearly shows that if organizations are to thrive in the face of talent shortages, they have to set themselves up to be more agile and adaptable, and that means being prepared to take risks and embrace innovation,” said Mike Ettling, CEO, Unit4. “The role technology plays in enabling this organizational and cultural shift will be crucial to determining success. Organizations should be looking to adopt industry-specific technology strategies that are right for their businesses, because as our study shows, those that get it right see positive impacts across talent recruitment and retention, workplace culture and trust in leadership.”

As companies look to become more competitive and accelerate digital transformation efforts, an easy first step is figuring out whether you are a ‘Hesitator’, an ‘Optimizer’ or something in between. Unit4 has developed a benchmark for organizations to assess how well prepared they are for the next five years. To assess how well your business measures up, visit the Unit4 Business Future Index benchmark – how do you compare?

Optimizers show the way

The research has identified a set of characteristics for high performing organizations compared to less successful peers.

  • 95% are planning to operate a remote or hybrid working model, in contrast to only 24% of Hesitators
  • They are more prepared to invest to improve financial management processes with 57% focused on greater investment in technology compared with only 22% of Hesitators
  • 59% of Optimizers are increasing technology investment to improve their ability to forecast, compared to 23% of Hesitators.

Additional Resources

  • A copy of the full report is available on request.
  • Accompanying infographics to the report are available to download here
  • Take the Business Future Index benchmark to see how you compare

Survey Methodology

  • Unit4 commissioned independent technology market research specialist Vanson Bourne to undertake the quantitative research that this report is based on. They interviewed a total of 3350 respondents in June and July 2021, from 11 regions: US (1000), Canada (250), UK (400), Germany (400), France (250), Netherlands (250), Norway (200), Denmark (106), Sweden (94), Australia (200) and Singapore (200).
  • Respondents were from all private and public sectors (including IT and technology; business and professional services; education; and charity and nonprofit), and from organizations with 200-20,000 employees.
  • Respondents from all departments and seniority levels were included, and the data was also used to create a maturity model to understand maturity in each of the following business areas: business strategy and performance; financial management and forecasting; and people/talent strategies. In order to do this, all 3350 respondents were assigned scores based on their answers to several questions within the survey. The respondents were then grouped by those scores, to form four different maturity groupings detailed further up in the report.


About Unit4

Unit4's next-generation enterprise solutions power many of the world's most people-centric mid-market organizations. Our state-of-the-art cloud platform, ERPx, brings together the capabilities of Financials, Procurement, Project Management, HR and FP&A onto a unified cloud platform that shares real-time information and is designed with a powerful, people-centric approach, so employees can benefit from better insight and become more effective and increasingly engaged. It supports rapid and continuous change while delivering individualized fit for customers at scale, delivering the right tools to unify the processes across their organization, and connect their people. Unit4 serves more than 6,000 customers globally including, Bravida, Havas, Migros Aare, Americares, Save the Children International, Action against Hunger, Metro Vancouver, Forest Research, Southampton City Council, Selkirk College, FTI Consulting, and Surrey County Council.

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Press Contact

Lisa Stassoulli
Global Communications Manager
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+44 (0)7870 916827

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